Submitted by: Federal Policy Committee
Mover: Wendy Chamberlain MP (Spokesperson for Work and Pensions)
Summation: Julia Goldsworthy (Chair of the Policy Working Group)
Conference believes that every individual should have a fair chance and level-playing field to make their aspirations a reality.
Conference embraces a Liberal Democrat conception of fairness including:
- Access to opportunities for every individual across society regardless of their background, inherent characteristics, or where they live.
- Access to the social and economic support each individual and community needs to maximise their own ability to make decisions and make use of opportunity.
- Consistent and fair processes that enhance trust in employers, the government, and other actors across the economy, and that encourage such actors to place trust in people.
- A fair playing field throughout the economy where large and established players can’t shut out innovators and challengers.
- Encouragement of vitality and non-conformity that honours people's own ambitions whatever they are, rather than a narrowly economic test of 'success'.
Conference regrets the many ways in which British society is unfair and holds back many people from achieving their full potential, in particular:
- Low and unstable incomes, along with poor working conditions, which have put many people under immense financial and emotional stress while those in power party behind closed doors.
- The current cost of living crisis, which is showing once again the lack of effective support for those who need it most across Britain.
- A regionally unbalanced economy, with poor skills and infrastructure investment, that freezes innovation and means that people's opportunities are often driven by where they grow up, not what they are capable of.
- The failure of successive Governments to treat people with dignity and respect - with benefits claimants demonised and working rights not enforced.
- The loss of trust in our national institutions by the self-serving and unprincipled actions of the Conservative Government.
- The unfairness in the ways that public services and contracts are allocated, leading to cronyism and queue-jumping.
Conference therefore endorses Policy Paper 149 Towards A Fairer Society as a range of policies to engage with the big economic challenges facing our country and move towards our ultimate aim of a fairer society. In particular, conference welcomes its proposals to:
- End Deep Poverty, including a radical overhaul of the welfare system so no family ever has to use a food bank in Britain, by:
- Taking immediate steps to repair the safety net, including restoring the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, introducing emergency grants (not loans) and stopping deducting debt repayments at unaffordable rates.
- Following this up in the longer term with fundamental reforms to the welfare system by introducing a Guaranteed Basic Income by increasing Universal Credit to the level required to end deep poverty within the decade and removing sanctions.
- Create Real Community Control, giving money and power to local communities in England to lead their own way to growth in ways that best address their distinctive needs and opportunities - measures to achieve this include:
- Shifting 50% of all public spending to regional and local government including funding for skills training,
- Abolishing all departmentally-led regional funding pots as part of creating a £50 billion capital investment fund; this will be distributed as “single pot” funds, on a needs-led basis to address historic underinvestment in left behind communities and regions.
- Ensuring there is strengthened regional representation on key national infrastructure bodies such as the National Infrastructure Commission and the Major Projects Authority.
- Allocating at least half of the absolute uplift in Research & Development funding allocation to be spent through regions.
- Supporting rural areas through these measures and beyond, to ensure that often overlooked challenges for our rural communities, such as high housing and transport costs, poor quality jobs and lack of access to services can be tackled head on.
- Improve access to skills, training and advice including by:
- Introducing a ‘Universal Work Service’ to replace the flawed support service currently offered through JobCentres.
- Giving New Skills Wallets for every adult, giving them £10,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives; these Skills Wallets will empower people to develop new skills so that they can thrive in the technologies and industries that are key to the UK’s economic future.
- Expanding the apprenticeship levy into a wider ‘Skills and Training Levy’ to help prepare the UK’s workforce for the economic challenges ahead.
- Introducing a Training Tax Credit to incentivise training in the private sector.
- Propose a new Workers Charter, with modern protections for a modern workforce including fairer flexible working rights, including:
- Establishing a new streamlined Worker Protection Enforcement Authority which would both enforce rights more effectively and give employers a simplified institutional contact.
- Changing the law so that flexible working is open to all from day one in the job, with employers required to advertise jobs accordingly, unless there are significant business reasons why that is not possible.
- Ensuring that shared parental leave is offered on the same terms as enhanced maternity leave, where this is in place.
- Promoting alternative models of ownership like co-operatives, mutuals and social enterprises.
- Strengthening the ability of unions to represent workers effectively by broadening the right to collective bargaining in pay and conditions, including pay and pensions, working time and holidays, equality issues, health and safety, training and development, work organisation and the nature and level of staffing.
- Protecting the right to withdraw your labour, (the right to strike), whether that right is exercised individually or collectively.
- Implementing the Disability Employment Charter to help create a level playing field for disabled workers.
Applicability: Federal except for 2. and 3. which are England only.